27
Sep 10

SONIA – “You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You”

Popular67 comments • 5,149 views

#631, 22nd July 1989

A theme we’ll come back to relentlessly when we reach the 00s: people assume reality pop talent shows are (or rather, ought to be) about talent, when in fact they’re about narrative. The records sell initially because we’ve accompanied the singer on a story whose ending requires that they sell: it’s what happens next that’s the problem. Of course, this has always been part of pop’s dynamics – Sonia’s career runs along similar lines, only without that pesky four months of television to sit through.

Stock Aitken And Waterman had always made music for everygirl: there was very little glamour in their female-fronted pop, the distance between the images of the stars and the teenagers they assumed were buying the records was deliberately tiny. But Mel and Kim and the Reynolds Girls had been didactic; Kylie was a star who played ordinary girls. It’s only now, with SAW’s fortunes at their zenith, that they are seen to let one of their audience make a record. Sonia’s entire hook (at the time) was that she was ordinary – determined and talented, but very much one of the listeners with a good enough voice to attract the attention of Pete Waterman in his DJ persona. As it happened, Sonia Evans’ background – though generic in one sense – wasn’t quite as unremarkable as the publicity pretended. She’d been at stage school since she was 8, and after the initial leg-up she found a niche recording oldies before a career in musicals and panto. They might as well have got Bonnie Langford in. But of course it suited Waterman to promote this everyday image, and himself as the man who could make a star out of anybody singing anything.

And there’s the rub: “You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You” is very thin fare. It’s not really the fault of Sonia, who does have an okay voice – a little fuller and smokier than Kylie, the obvious vocal model, though with no real presence beyond the belted “youu-ooo”s on the chorus. She doesn’t seem to have any interesting ideas about how to deliver the song, either, but then she’s not got much to work with: after some opening bars that nod frustratingly towards house music the ‘proper’ drums come in and the song slides into automatic. As usual, the title says it all: Sonia is all dogged persistence in the face of an unfeeling fella, and on the verses sounds positively perky about it thanks to those annoying high notes at the end of each line. Sonia approaches it with gusto but she can’t stop the record seeming flat, and even at the time this seemed like hubris on Waterman’s part – a man who’d come to believe the “Hit Factory” hype. It’s taken them almost a dozen number ones, but Stock Aitken And Waterman have finally got to the top with the sort of track unkind critics assumed they always made.

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Comments

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  1. 31
    Chelovek na lune on 27 Sep 2010 #

    #27 – agreed, definitely. An absolutely gorgeous track. I can’t recall why Lonnie Gordon didn’t get the promotion she so patently warranted. Too sophisticated for the Smash Hits crowd, I guess, without having sufficient underground dance cred.

    But a damned shame, sirs and ladies, when crap like this could hit the top.

  2. 32
    anto on 28 Sep 2010 #

    The exuberance here is all Sonias. S/A/W seemingly on cruise control.
    Prior to this she appeared in Bread as the girl who called Adrians bluff by refusing his propositions and flinging his clothes up a tree thus leaving the Boswells poet-in-residence to ride home on his motorcycle clad in a bin liner.
    There was also a Sonia guest appearance in Whydon’tyouswitchoffyourtvset…….
    It was the Liverpool kids turn that week I guess.

  3. 33
    George on 28 Sep 2010 #

    Wait! Bros played Wembley Stadium? The fag-end of the 80’s were a very strange period indeed. Did they sell it out?

    I vaguely recall Sonia having a few hits around this time but can’t for the life of me remember what they were called or sounded like (including this one).

  4. 34
    will on 28 Sep 2010 #

    The will they/ won’t they sell it out was one of THE pop talking points of that summer. I seem to remember they stuffed the bill with support acts in an effort to shift tickets. Even the Stone Roses were offered a slot in the forlorn hope their presence might snag a few stray indie kids.

    As for Sonia, I actually don’t think this is too bad. It’s well constructed, even if it does run out of steam after the second chorus. While lyrically it’s virtually a retread of I Should Be So Lucky, I’m a sucker for sad tales of unrequited love. 6 from me.

  5. 35
    George on 28 Sep 2010 #

    The Goss brothers were never ones to back down from an act of hubris. Information on the internet appears vague (Matt claims it was a sell – but then he would) but it does seem to have been expanded to an ”all-dayer” by the time the gig took place, which fits in with what Will said.

  6. 36
    punctum on 28 Sep 2010 #

    The nod to Inner City in the introduction confirms that SAW were by now trying to sound as little like SAW as possible; even as their familiar cadences make an entrance, their pop gropes towards adulthood, though the first Liverpudlian solo female singer to hit number one since Cilla still sounds at times like a speeded-up Rick Astley.

    And yet, although on its surface “You’ll Never Stop Me From Loving You” bounces in the telling of its tale of attempting to rekindle a broken relationship, there is something slightly more sinister about such lines as “Even when you’re home (and what a strange line with which to begin a lyric)/You won’t pick up your ‘phone/And take my call” and “When I know that you’re alone/I wander to your home/To catch a glimpse or two.” In other words, it appears to be another happy pop song about a stalker (“The times I’ve tried to see you”), and that suspicion is underlined by Sonia’s distinct snarling of the couplet “You could really love me/You could really need me.” So wherever he may go, she will follow him…if necessary unto death; it is almost as though Waterman were quoting from a discarded psychofan letter to Jason or Kylie.

    None of this subtext is of course attempted in the video, which merely shows the giggling, tousled teenager that Sonia was in 1989 going through her goofy dance class moves. And she hasn’t really been allowed to grow out of that; there have subsequently been only a few more (yet considerably lesser) hits, a failed Eurovision entry and scattered appearances on restart-my-career talent shows, stage musicals and nostalgia compilations. Really she should have been given a sitcom (or at least a role in Bread) or Saturday night variety show, but as the nineties approached such expensive affairs were being frowned upon, so she has been left with nowhere interesting to go, forever the “Liverpool, erm, Mersey” scatterbrain parodied by French and Saunders. Still, there is sufficient evidence of acidity in her vocal delivery to make “You’ll Never Stop Me” a slight cut above the standard SAW teen fodder which, even at their commercial peak, was rapidly approaching its sell-by date.

  7. 37
    MikeMCSG on 28 Sep 2010 #

    # 36 According to Anto she was in Bread. I wouldn’t know – that ran “No Place Like Home” very close as worst sitcom of the 80s. Bronze medal to “Lame Ducks”.

  8. 38
    George on 28 Sep 2010 #

    Bread was able to occasionally pull in viewing figures equal to 1/3 of the UK population. How? god only knows.

  9. 39
    Billy Smart on 28 Sep 2010 #

    Worst sitcom of the 1980s – Robin Askwith milkman comedy ‘The Bottle Boys'(LWT, 1985). Jim Davison’s ‘Up The Elephant & Round The Castle’ (Thames, 1983-5) runs it a close second.

    ‘Lame Ducks’ had a redeeming oddness, I though. Once you notice that anything is written by PJ Hammond, you start to see it as a spin-off from ‘Sapphire & Steel’…

  10. 40
    Billy Smart on 28 Sep 2010 #

    I’m enjoying all of these Lonnie Gordon links. I do think that ‘Happenin’ All Over again’ is perhaps the greatest record that Stock, Aitken and Waterman ever made. You can certainly tell that its one of their prestige productions, when they’re really pull out all of the stops in order to make a classic single. Although the SAW formula was always enjoyable, there are a lot of lesser works where you can tell that they’re working on autopilot; a verse that doesn’t go anywhere, an unattractive blare of synthi-horns.

    Perhaps this is because in this instance they’re creating a dance (pop-house) record, which therefore had to be absolutely of the (January 1990) moment and carry a certain club credibility. It owes a lot to contemporary Italia house, and is therefore inspired by ‘Ride On Time’ by Black Box, the sound of Summer 1989. If you’re making a record that’s indebted to one of the most exciting singles in pop history, you’ve got to be really good! There’s tremendous charm about the arrangement, especially in the way that it combines pleasing machine powered effects; jets of steam, pumping noises. There are also spot-on atmospheric 1990 embellishments – yelps of “whoo” and “whee” in the mix. (The type of thing that provoked my 17-year old muso distrust, I’m embarrassed to recollect.)

    The thing that really made the writer-producers raise their game here was that they were working with a singer who totally knew her chops. Lonnie Gordon came from the Bronx, sang in clubs, had moved to the UK, and become the first-choice house diva to call upon for any number of acts by the late 1980s. The degree of passion in this performance, realised in ecstatic wailing and screaming, overwhelms the framework of the arrangement and is the thing about the song that you always remember first, which isn’t something that you could say about the usual SAW roster; Sonia, Bananarama, Rick Astley, etc.

    It tells a familiar story of returning to an unsatisfactory boyfriend against your better instincts… but then, Hey! What can you do?

    I prom-ised tu my-self…
    I’d neev-uh mayke the same mis-takes a-gen
    (same mistakes…)
    And though I look for some-one else…
    I nev-ah really waaahnt tu walk away

    It seems
    that your
    just the SAME
    I forgot
    all the PAIN
    Look in your – eyes!
    you said –

    BELIEVE me!
    then you –
    Broke-my-heart-and –
    DECEIVED me!
    when you
    Said you
    nev-er!-could –
    LEAVE me !
    But-its –
    Happ-nin’!-all-O-ver-AGAIN!

    The first two minutes of verse/chorusry is fab, but, once you know the record, acts as foreplay in anticipation of the extended chorus/ bridge/ reprise that the you know its leading towards: an extended section of multiple Lonnies exploring the situation from every possible vocal perspective. The effect of this section on the listener is deliriously exciting.

    Several things happen simultaneously. Lonnie reiterates “Happ-nin’!-all-O-ver-AGAIN!” what feels like a million times, but she also magically appears in another place, holding the note of “Agaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaain!” for an eon. Backing vox (some of whom sound a lot like Kylie Minogue to me) counterpoint the ecstasy of Lonnie’s voice with an undertone of “BELIEVE”, “DECEIVE” and “LEAVE”. Lonnie protests “No! No! No!” and then we’re in the breakdown bit, where a seductive analogue house bassline strokes the listener while Lonnie breaks free of language – “OH!WOOOAHWAH!” – the structure of the song no longer able to support the overpowering emotion.

    Although the lyrics of this are perfectly fine, its one of those singles that you respond to very much as a record, rather than as a song. It comes on and you instinctively throw yourself into it. You have to rush onto the dancefloor for this one! It offers such pleasure that it’s *just what you do*. Which is very much in keeping with the pattern of returning to an unreliable boyfriend once again. BELIEVE me! Its Happ-nin’!-all-O-ver-AGAIN!

  11. 41
    MikeMCSG on 28 Sep 2010 #

    # 40 Watch that bunny Billy !

    # 39 I had forgotten “Bottle Boys”. I tend to dismiss the whole of ITV’s sitcom output after “Whoops Apocalypse” in ’82 as being uniformly atrocious so the BBC1 clunkers stand out more.

    “No Place Like Home” is the winner because in ’86 one had to endure around 12 minutes of it inbetween Corrie on ITV and Dallas on BBC1 and the finale always featured Marcia Warren as the wacky neighbour over-acting to the point of lunacy.

  12. 42
    Billy Smart on 28 Sep 2010 #

    Perhaps the most depressing sitcom of the 1980s might be Thames’ ‘Slinger’s Day’. ‘Tripper’s Day’, a wholly inferior star vehicle starring Leonard Rossiter as a supermarket manager was dismal enough, but then Rossiter died before the second series went into production and was replaced by the ever-hilarious Bruce Forsythe…

  13. 43
    MikeMCSG on 28 Sep 2010 #

    # 42 You’ve got me there Billy, I don’t recall it in either guise but I can imagine it from your description. There’s nothing worse than seeing a genius laid low by a dud script. I seem to recall Arthur Lowe being in some terrible one about a schoolteacher just before he died.

  14. 44
    Steve Mannion on 28 Sep 2010 #

    I almost want to rewatch that (I did see at least one episode) to see Brucey Actually Acting…

    Bread was my favourite TV show for a while and I do remember Sonia’s cameo in it, as a girlfriend of Adrian the hapless poet (the more notable cameo came from the McCartneys, bleh). Can’t defend the show at all now. The only sitcoms 21 years ago I’d say hold up now are Red Dwarf, Blackadder IV and maybe Desmond’s (altho that probably had yet to hit its stride as this was its first series).

    As for Lonnie Gordon, I do recall big hype about the single to the extent where its failure to peak higher than #4 was something of a shock. The Thursday after it got there the BBC trailed that night’s TOTP by playing a brief clip of the song’s video as if themselves proclaiming it the highlight of the programme. I don’t remember them doing this for any other hit song so perhaps a one-off experiment but it did feel like more of an advertisment for the song rather than the show, even to uncynical 11yr old me.

  15. 45
    will on 28 Sep 2010 #

    Worst sitcom of all time?

    They don’t come much worse than Come Back Mrs Noah. Mollie Sugden plays the titular housewife who ‘accidentally’ gets blasted off into space.

  16. 46

    ITV’s Brass was excellent, and came well after Whoops Apocalypse.

  17. 47
    Steve Mannion on 28 Sep 2010 #

    “Mollie Sugden plays the titular housewife who ‘accidentally’ gets blasted off into space.”

    How can this not have been brilliant?

  18. 48
    wichita lineman on 28 Sep 2010 #

    Nice Popular/Thenplaylong synchronicity – both Sonia and Neil Reid released a cover of Skeeter Davis’ End Of The World as their fame was dwindling.

    I remember Tripper’s Day being weak, and Bread being unfathomably popular, but Sugden In Space… there has to be a bootleg dvd out there and I’m going to find it.

  19. 49
    Alan not logged in on 29 Sep 2010 #

    Mrs Noah wasn’t brilliant, but it was less dreadful than many imagine because of the supreme oddness. No place like home was such a fixture in our house, being mostly memorable for the continuity announcer letting the viewers know that ‘William Gaunt is currently appearing in Where Did You Last See Your Trousers at the blah theatre’.

    I’d rep for Marshall/Renwick’s post whoops show Hot Metal also on itv

  20. 50
    flahr on 29 Sep 2010 #

    Hot Metal of course had “Papers” by Animals organist Alan Price as its theme tune. (Possibly they were under some sort of contractual obligation to play it in full, because the opening and closing credits didn’t half bang on a bit.)

  21. 51
    MikeMCSG on 29 Sep 2010 #

    #46 I thought Brass started earlier – round about 81 – but a wikipedia check reveals you’re right so I accept the correction.

  22. 52

    Mike@51: fair enough — I was surprised it went on as long as it did, but my parents (dad) esp. adored it. Of course it was Granada, so probably starred members of Crispy Ambulance at some point.


    “The Hacienda must be built!”

    I miss “When Did You Last See Your Trousers”: or more precisely, the idea that a show with such a name might be of cultural interest…

  23. 53
    wichita lineman on 29 Sep 2010 #

    When The Whistle Blows, Ricky Gervais’ fake sitcom, also makes me pine (slightly) for such gormless tv. Were it ever to be made, it would be a perfect comeback vehicle for Sonia.

    And if you think it could never happen, I wouldn’t put it past these chaps.

  24. 54
    Jimmy the Swede on 30 Sep 2010 #

    Some truly grim sitcoms:

    “You Must Be The Husband” (had the cheek to use “Take Five” as its theme)
    “Boomin’ Marvellous” (with my old footy buddie Clive Mantle. But it wasn’t)
    “Home To Roost” (a major blot on the wonderful landscape of John Thaw)
    “A Small Problem” (oddball plot about a state discriminating against short people. Not written by Randy Newman)

  25. 55
    punctum on 30 Sep 2010 #

    Odd how when John Thaw went it was all about Morse and no mention whatsoever of: “Ey oop lad, ‘appens thee’d best be gettin’ thee ‘air cut, else tha’ll be lookin’ like that Boy George fella off the telly like!”

  26. 56
    Billy Smart on 30 Sep 2010 #

    ‘Home To Roost’ is actually okay, argues a Doctor of Television Studies – John Thaw was an underrated comic actor, and although the scripts weren’t quite of the same standard, the situations and lines were recognisable as the product of the same writer who gave us ‘Rising Damp’, ‘Only When I Laugh’ and ‘Duty Free’.

  27. 57
    Jimmy the Swede on 30 Sep 2010 #

    # 56 – It’s all a matter opinion, isn’t it, Billy? For my part, I simply can’t believe that Home To Roost” was from the same pen as “Rising Damp”, an absolute masterpiece and ITV’s finest comic hour by some distance, imho.

    # 55 – I think you argue my point, MC. I have often wondered how Morse would have got on with Jack Regan. Jack gets seconded to Thames Valley for a spell…I have a feeling that plenty of refreshment would have been taken, if nothing else.

  28. 58
    Billy Smart on 30 Sep 2010 #

    John Thaw’s TV career told a tale of successive promotions – Military Policeman in Redcap, Detective in The Sweeney, Detective Sergeant Morse, Kavanagh QC! Although I’m not sure how his appearance as a criminal in long-forgotten 1974 LWT sitcom ‘Thick As Thieves’, alongside Bob Hoskins, would fit into this narrative.

  29. 59
    Jimmy the Swede on 30 Sep 2010 #

    He also turned up in an early episode of “The Avengers” in a kilt! Can you imagine Regan doing that?

  30. 60
    Billy Smart on 30 Sep 2010 #

    The most mindboggling Thaw casting is as a thinly-disguised Neil Kinnock in David Hare’s ‘The Absence of War’!

  31. 61
    Martin Skidmore on 4 Oct 2010 #

    Worst sitcom of the ’80s for me was Troubles and Strife, starring Tarrant out of Blake’s 7 as a vicar and some characters pinched from other sitcoms (Olive from On The Buses, Maureen from Please Sir, etc.).

  32. 62
    Steve Mannion on 4 Oct 2010 #

    Don’t forget The River, starring David Essex. Or do.

  33. 63
    wichita lineman on 4 Oct 2010 #

    Was The River meant to be a comedy? That’s a serious question.

  34. 64
    Alan on 4 Oct 2010 #

    My memory has merged “A Small Problem” (with him out of the Young Ones in it) and “Small World” by David Lodge. (Probs cos they were only a year apart.)

  35. 65
    Steve Mannion on 4 Oct 2010 #

    Lineman, it was and surely had the laugh track to ‘prove’it (did any comedy series around this time NOT have a laugh track? uh-oh I smell another list…), but it was certainly on the gentler/romantic side.

  36. 66
    Billy Smart on 4 Oct 2010 #

    I think that the later episodes of Ripping Yarns were the first BBC comedy programmes to go out without a laugh track, the filmic mood comedy of the earlier ones having been slightly spoiled by the imposition of laughter. But it was standard BBC policy up till then that all programmes made as comedies must include laughter. Nobody talked about ‘generic hybridity’in the old days!

  37. 67
    mapman132 on 28 Jul 2014 #

    If there was an icon for “number 1 when you first visited the UK”, I could use it here. Unlike “Back To Life”, this didn’t go on to be a US hit. Even though I don’t remember consciously hearing it, YNSMLY must’ve penetrated my brain while in England since it seems vaguely familiar 25 years later. Or maybe I’m just confusing it with every other SAW record ever made. Anyway, one more entry to go in Mapman’s Salisbury Trilogy….

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